Stopped for DUI in Colorado: 6 Things to Know
Colorado has created the category of Persistent Drunk Driver (PDD) as a way to hand out stiffer sentences to both repeat offenders and to other classes of drivers as well. For example, any driver who registers a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher – more than double the legal limit – is treated as a Persistent Drunk Driver for the purposes of sentencing. The same is true for any driver who refuses to take a chemical test – blood, urine or breath – to determine impairment. Any repeat offender also is a PDD. Anyone convicted as a PDD must go through drug and alcohol rehabilitation and have an ignition interlock device installed for two years in order to regain an unrestricted license. Drivers can receive a restricted license if they agree to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle, but the wait is at least 30 days – which is doubled to 60 days for someone who refuses to take a chemical test.
Here are six key points about Colorado’s drunk driving laws:
1. Implied consent and sobriety testing
Colorado has a standard Implied Consent Law that requires drivers stopped on suspicion of DWI to submit to a chemical test. Since driving is a privilege and not a right, this implied consent comes with the privilege of driving on Colorado’s roads. However, the state’s implied consent law does not apply to field sobriety tests. An officer can request a motorist to agree to this test to help determine if the driver is impaired. Defense attorneys say drivers are within their rights to refuse the sobriety test. Many Colorado DWI attorneys say the test is flawed and sober drivers routinely fail the field test simply because it is something unfamiliar performed in a difficult and uncomfortable situation.
2. Refusing the chemical test
What if a driver in Colorado refuses to submit to a chemical test, which usually is administered at a police station after the driver has been arrested with suspicion of DWI? The penalty for violating the state’s Implied Consent Law is a 1 year driver’s license suspension for the first offense. That increases to 2 years for a second offense and three years for a third offense. Can refusing the test ever help a driver? It’s possible, according to DWI attorneys. However, it’s also important to understand the state routinely convicts drivers without a BAC test result, relying instead on the testimony of the police officer and the fact that the driver refused the test.
3. Expect to be videotaped
How would you handle yourself if you were stopped and questioned for a DUI? That’s something that Colorado DUI experts say people should be more knowledgeable about. Even someone who doesn’t drink at all could be stopped at a DWI checkpoint. Since many checkpoints – and many DUI stops on the road – are filmed, the way you talk and act is important because it will be carefully analyzed by prosecutors. Lawyers advise saying and doing as little as possible, other than being courteous and showing your license and registration information. One tip is to make sure you know where those papers are so that you aren’t fumbling to find them which could look as though you are impaired on a DUI stop video. If requested to get out of your car by police, you should do so.
4. More than .08 to worry about
Legislators in Colorado created the Driving with Ability Impaired or DWAI charge, along with the crime of DUI or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One of the main differences with DWAI is that a driver with a BAC of between .05 and .08 can be charged with DWAI even though the driver might not qualify for a DUI arrest. The penalties are only slightly lower for DWAI. Colorado also has a special BAC level for commercial drivers – the standard is .04 BAC. Also, drivers under the age of 21 can be arrested for a BAC between .02 and .05. Understanding the different BAC levels for different classes of drivers is important in Colorado.
5. DUI penalties in Colorado
For a first offense conviction, the fine is up to $1,000 with a license suspension of up to 9 months. There is a minimum jail sentence of 5 days, though that is often suspended in favor of a treatment program. The penalties escalate for additional offenses and Colorado considers all prior DUI’s or DWAI’s, no matter how long ago they were committed. A second conviction triggers the requirement for an ignition interlock device in order to drive and a jail sentence of up to a year – with a mandatory minimum of 10 days and a license suspension of 1 year.
6. Total cost of a DUI in Colorado
Fines and fees for a first-offense conviction should be about $1,500, according to DUI attorneys, along with chemical testing costs of up to $150 and probation supervision charges of up to $1,200. Expect to pay at least $150 in towing fees and impound fees are usually anywhere from $50 to $100 a day. Having an ignition interlock device installed and maintained for a year ranges from $970 to $1,460. The two biggest costs are for car insurance – expect the cost to double or triple – and for a criminal defense attorney. Other potential costs include finding a new job, if you are fired, and the impact of the negative mark on your credit rating.
The information contained above is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice you should consult an attorney.